Spring reservoir levels low in Eastern Montana for Memorial Day weekend
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: May 24, 2022

BILLINGS, Montana — The Bureau of Reclamation announced that projected water levels and releases at most Reclamation-managed reservoirs in eastern Montana will be below desired levels this Memorial Day weekend.

“Delayed runoff with drier than average conditions extending from last year have led to below average reservoir levels at most facilities,” said Ryan Neman, Montana Area Manager.

Despite low reservoir levels, there are usable boat ramps at Reclamation reservoirs east of the Continental Divide during the Memorial Day weekend.

“We encourage water-based recreationists to check for the most up-to-date water level conditions at Reclamation’s website https://www.usbr.gov/gp/boat/index.html before heading to your favorite reservoir,” Newman said. “We hope visitors to our reservoirs have a good time while prioritizing safety over the holiday weekend.”

Current conditions at Reclamation facilities include:

  • Clark Canyon Reservoir – Most boat ramps are usable. Storage peaked in early May and is currently 18 feet below normal full pool levels. The reservoir is expected to draft throughout the summer as releases are being made to meet irrigation demands.
  • Canyon Ferry Reservoir – Goose Bay and Yacht Basin boat ramps are currently useable. The reservoir level is 18 feet below the top of normal full pool and minimum releases to the Missouri River below Holter Dam are near 3,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) to conserve storage in Canyon Ferry Reservoir. Releases have been at minimum levels since last June due to ongoing drought conditions. April inflows were the lowest on record, since 1961, therefore the reservoir is not filling as normal.  The reservoir is not expected to fill to full pool this summer and could be 4 to 10 feet from full in late June.   
  • Gibson Reservoir – The boat ramp at Gibson Reservoir is not anticipated to be usable for Memorial Day weekend. Gibson Reservoir is 44 below normal full pool but is expected to fill in June.  
  • Lake Elwell (Tiber Reservoir) – Boaters can launch at most boat ramps. The reservoir level is about 7 feet below normal full pool. The reservoir is expected to fill to full pool levels this summer. Releases to the Marias River are currently near 500 cfs with increases expected in early June.   
  • Fresno Reservoir – All boat ramps at Fresno Reservoir are currently usable. The reservoir level is about 14 feet below normal full pool and is expected to draft throughout the summer. Releases to the Milk River are currently near 1,000 cfs to meet irrigation demands.  
  • Nelson Reservoir – Boaters should be able to launch at all locations around Nelson Reservoir. Nelson Reservoir is approximately 10 feet below full pool which is below average for this time of year and is expected to draft throughout the summer.  
  • Bighorn Lake (Yellowtail Dam) – All boat ramps at Bighorn Lake are usable and are maintained by National Park Service. The reservoir level is about 16 feet below normal full pool, which is above average for this time of year. The reservoir is expected to fill to full pool levels this summer. Releases to the Bighorn River are average and are currently 2,500 cfs. More information can be found at the National Park Service’s website https://www.nps.gov/bica/index.htm

Each year hundreds of lives are lost, thousands are injured, and millions of dollars of property damage occurs because of preventable recreational boating accidents on U.S. waterways. Too often recreation outings turn tragic. You — as a boat operator, passenger, or concerned individual — can make a difference. For more information about boating safety visit www.uscgboating.org.